Budget 'big hit' for businesses
IN a last-ditch attempt to quell public backlash over 2010-11 rates bills, councillors yesterday voted to extend the discount period for ratepayers by 30 days.
At the more-subdued-than-expected public meeting in Council Chambers yesterday, councillors voted in unison to pass its budget.
A 9.7 per cent overall rise in rate revenue was the figure being brandished around,however, a 33 per cent rise in Warwick, Allora and Killarney, and a 44 per cent hike in Stanthorpe in the minimum general rates for residential and commercial, painted a worrying picture for thecoming year.
The big news was council’s decision to scrap levies from rate bills.
Previously anomalies existed between Stanthorpe and Warwick as the north had both road and waste levies while the south had a landfill levy.
The decision to scrap all of these in both former shires brings the region some equality and curbs some of theimpact of the minimum rate increase.
At yesterday’s meeting, Mayor Ron Bellingham described the budget process as “traumatic” before explaining how forced amalgamation meant this year Council had to fuse the region’s rating system together, bringing Warwick onto differential rating.
He said adding to a “toxic mix” of problems were the contentious unimproved land valuations across the board that saw increases in value of property of on average 30 per cent in Warwick and 150 per cent in Stanthorpe and caused local government further headaches when trying to establish an “equitable” system.
“It’s been some five months since the debate started and the realisation hit that we had a real problem as a council and community,” Cr Bellingham said.
“Throw into the mix the responsibility to depreciate our assets which is, in our view, an inaccurate science if it is a science at all. That’s added to the difficulty.
“For this council, to bring down a blanket budget with continuing orders from State Government that anything but a balanced budget won’t be tolerated, it hasn’t added to anyone’s composure.”
Cr Bellingham said the removal of subsidies without any warning had been another issue Council has had to grapple with.
“I don’t pretend that any one of us is comfortable with the end result and I imagine there will be significant movement again next year when we have to deal with the issues that fall out of this,” he said.
After reading the figures, Andrea Bushman of Caltex on Wallace was sure she would be stung in both her business and her residential property ratings.
She still needed to work out the figures with her current valuations, but she said she wasn’t hopeful.
“I knew they were going to go up, but after seeing this, I’m really concerned.
“We are going to get hit, and hit big. I want to know how anyone can justify the rises in rates in these financial times because things are tough in business at the moment.
“The business community is going to be hurt by this. Electricity is going up, now this. They will tell us to raise our prices, but there’s only so much you can do that by.
“It will be the smaller businesses that feel the pain.”
On paper residential urban ratepayers paying the minimum general rate in the south were dealt a tough hand with a potential bill increase of close to $200 where the other major towns fair better.
However, according to the Queensland Treasury Committee report this area had been under-rated in recent years.
Residential urban rates will be set at 1.0980 cents in the dollar and residential rural will be rated at 0.8260, with a minimum general rate of $725.
Commercial and industrial rates in Stanthorpe are 1.8870 cents in the dollar and 0.7747 in Warwick.
At yesterday’s meeting, Deputy Mayor Peter Blundell spoke out about the importance of giving ratepayers more time to pay their account and receive the 10 per cent discount.
Doubling this grace period will cost the council $60,000 but Cr Blundell argued it was a small price to pay.
“Obviously there is going to be an impact, but I believe it’s important to give something. Even though it’s not a huge saving, it’s important to demonstrate we understand the difficult situation,” he said.
Locally, the State Government’s introduction of mandatory cat registration will add a $400,000 cost to this year’s council budget.
$642,480 in donations to community groups
Council has again committed its support to local groups and organisations by way of rate relief, monetary donations, in-kind support, plant hire relief and grant application support.
Boost for youth
Council “recognises the importance of youth to the future of our community and the value of considering young people when planning and developing services, activities, infrastructure and facilities for the region”. Council has allocated $220,508 in its 2010/11 budget for this purpose.
Funds for saleyards
With stock numbers continuing to increase, council has projected a $102,018 surplus to be generated from saleyards operations in the 2010/11 year. An expenses allocation of $477,150 has been made and $50,000 has been aside in the capital budget for a new roof over the drafting area.
Council will provide funds in the coming budget for pest management control including $58,000 for the Stanthorpe wild dog fence; $24,000 for the Killarney wild dog fence; $13,000 for top-netting on the rabbit fence; and $15,000 for bounties across the region. A $315,000 precept for rabbit control has also been allocated to the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) under this budget.
- Residential urban 1.0980 cents in the dollar (minimum general rate $725)
- Residential rural 0.8260 cents in the dollar (minimum general rate $725)
- Commercial and industrial – Stanthorpe 1.8870 cents in the dollar (minimum general rate $725)
- Commercial and industrial – Warwick 0.7747 cents in the dollar (minimum general rate $725)
- Commercial and industrial – rural 0.8120 cents in the dollar (minimum general rate $725)
- Shopping centres 0.6700 cents in the dollar (minimum general rate $725)